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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Path of Treasures is a historical fiction novel written by Gail Meath. Sara loved being a hoggee, a canal driver for Cappy and Sam, who had been her family since Cappy found her as an infant floating in a basket. She loved her mules, Japheth and Shem; they were her friends and confidants as she walked the towpath scouring the ground for treasures. She had found one, a silver cross with what looked like a real ruby at its center, just before the fog terrified her. Everything changed in those moments. Lundy, her friend and the fourth member of the Streeter’s Ark crew, disappeared when he walked up ahead to investigate a blockage. Sam found him dead, his head bashed in by a rock. Sara couldn’t help but worry; there had been other tragedies on the river, other deaths, and unexplained disappearances. She knew of the competition and growing hostility between the canallers and the railroad, whose presence threatened the survival of the traditions and livelihood of the canal coalition, which Cappy led.
Gail Meath’s Path of Treasures is a riveting look at an aspect of American history few know about. I loved reading about Sara’s adventures as a hoggee, typically youths who guided tow mules along the pathways lining the Erie Canal in the nineteenth century. Meath’s plot outlines the growing friction between canallers and the railroads, educating her readers as they follow the story of a powerful railroad magnate determined to destroy Sara’s family and the mystery of the culprit behind the escalating violence following trains and canallers alike. Her characters are well-defined and credible, and watching as Sara comes of age under pressure is memorable indeed. Path of Treasures is well-written and fast-paced. The story is illuminating and powerful, and the hints of romance spice up the tale. It’s most highly recommended.